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Ford Transit fuel cell electric vehicle prototype marks start of hydrogen van development

Ford has partnered with powertrain testing specialist AVL to produce a Transit fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) prototype van, which it will use to research the suitability of hydrogen powertrains in the commercial vehicle sector.

Partly funded by the government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre, the hydrogen van aims to improve knowledge, engineering and integration of the technology.

The powertrain uses a modularised fuel cell system approach and replaces the battery of the Transit battery electric vehicle (BEV), upon which it’s based, with a smaller unit.

Related: Renault Master H2-TECH prototype is latest hydrogen van development

A proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel-cell system has been installed and the production BEV’s electric motors remain.

Speaking to Autocar, a Ford spokesperson said: “Compared to a conventional BEV product, the Transit FCEV research vehicle offers enhanced capabilities to enhance customer productivity, including refilling time akin to conventional powertrains, whilst still delivering zero emissions.

“This project is a step to deeper insights into the commercial viability of a fuel-cell systems for possible wider deployment and also gaining further understanding of customer usage challenges for route‐to‐market.”

The project hopes to be able to determine the correct vehicle attributes and relevant system requirements for a feasible hydrogen van.

These will help to develop a package design and functionality for a drivable FCEV and will also help identify key challenges and critical decisions in the development process.

AVL said the findings will also assist in identifying component sizing – including battery and fuel stack – for near-optimal vehicle configuration.

An AVL spokesperson said: “For partners and the general UK supply chain, the project will increase knowhow and technical capability in the areas of fuel-cell-vehicle engineering and integration.

Related: Volkswagen Multivan series production begins in Hannover

“The tools and technical knowledge acquired during the project will be used for the next phases of fuel-cell research and to inform partners about the commercial viability of potential products and services.”

Other key areas the project will explore includes analysing the benefits of FCEV systems, including range, fast refilling and payload capacities, compared with BEV for high-payload usage in the light-duty commercial vehicle sector.

The new Ford Transit BEV will go on sale in the UK in spring 2022, with a 217-mile range and in up to 25 different sizes, weights and body variants.

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